It boiled down to one word: social.
This wasn't surprising, exactly. But when you consider that less than six months ago the social media community was all agog over CNN's partnership with Facebook Connect for the inauguration, it was quite a leap in a short amount of time.
Of the ten sites I checked in on, ranging from Hulu to E! Online to MTV.com, most had social media tools. It made the sites that didn't have them look frumpy, old and out of touch. At one point, when I stopped by CBSnews.com, a site that was, well, antisocial, I was struck by the commentary being offered by news anchor Katie Couric. Unintentionally, the networks' presentation gave the impression that only her opinion mattered, while the voices of fans were strangely absent. MSNBC incorporated Twitter into its feed, along with offering a stream of selected tweets, ABCNews.com (along with MTV.com and the aforementioned CNN) went with Facebook Connect.
It's not as though these any of the tweets and status updates I saw were particularly profound -- you can only read "Michael Jackson RIP" so many times before wanting to turn the social channel to something else -- but I would be surprised if next time there's a big live event, social media won't be incorporated into every online presentation of it, including at the site of that laggard, CBS.
The strangest presentation from a social perspective was the one at USAToday.com, part of a company that, as publishing organizations go, has a pretty good handle on social media. Featuring a feed from Livestream, it had this message scrolling across the bottom: "Chat on this channel has been disabled to maintain the quality of the video stream." What? From the company that runs the social networking community MomsLikeMe.com and owns Ripple6?
>I can only guess that Gannett was hobbled by the service provider it chose for the stream, but nonetheless, for the socially minded, it was the Gerald Ford of digital yesterday. In other words, while a number of sites were able to present fairly seamless integration of social media and a video stream, USAToday.com showed it couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. In the future, that sort of disconnect will be unacceptable.
One last thing before I go onto pondering other things. As those who read me often know, I have this hangup about social media sites monetizing themselves. And while you can have a good, reasoned argument with me about whether individuals should pay for their social media accounts, I don't get it when it comes to licensing tools like Facebook Connect and Twitter to media sites, which should pay for the privilege. Having just read Chris Anderson's "Free: The Future of a Radical Price," I'm (a little) more sympathetic about achieving reach through free consumer distribution, but, hell, if the events of yesterday are any indication, media sites need to incorporate social media tools. For chrissake, start charging 'em before it's too late!
Editors' Note What do social media, online video, publishing and metrics have in common? Aside from all being topics that MediaPost publications such as Online Media Daily and OMMA magazine cover intently, they are all part of some fresh new OMMA conference videos that we've posted here for your viewing pleasure and professional development. Don't take our word for it. Come hear journalism savior Steve Brill make a case for online's "paid" model at OMMA Publish. Or listen to CNN interactive marketing guru Andy Mitchell explain how to build a community around news at OMMA Social. Or watch Publicis' Rishad Tobaccowala explain why everything can be measured, but "not everything is necessarily worth measuring" at OMMA Metrics & Measurement. Plus much, much more, including panels, keynotes, presentations, and even some good new insider perspectives from MediaPost's Search Insider and Email Insider invitation-only summits.______________________________________________________________________